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Old 06-19-2014, 05:25 PM   #1  
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Default Software to pilot career

Hi Frnds,


I m very glad to join this forum....

I m a 25 yrs old and a software engineer with nearly 4yrs experience....
I wanna become a pilot can someone suggest me the pros and cons of my decision...
Any suggestions will be appreciated....

TIA...[emoji4]

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Old 06-19-2014, 07:10 PM   #2  
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Quote:
I m a 25 yrs old and a software engineer with nearly 4yrs experience....
I wanna become a pilot can someone suggest me the pros and cons of my decision...
Any suggestions will be appreciated....


It's easier for me to cut-and-paste an earlier post I made to a similar question. But to start, the pros are: it's fun, varied, and if you get lucky, you can eventually make a ton of money while working 2 weeks a month and traveling hither and yon. You also get to enjoy the pleasures of waking up in the middle of the night (or the morning...or the afternoons) with absolutely no idea of where you are.

The cons are that people on here will tell you you are making a huge mistake, that there is way too much uncertainty, and that you will spend a lifetime's worth of earnings to pay for training that will allow you to make less than poverty wages for a few years. Your judgement will be questioned, and your sanity even more so.

But, it's a blast...

Here's my long answer.

I do hope that you realize that you are essentially asking for a summation of almost every thread APCóor any other online aviation forum for pilotsóhas ever had. That said, Iíll give you my two cents worth.

As noted above, you are money ahead with a back-up plan. A pilot that has no other skills or training is in trouble, especially if he loses his medical.

A bit on my background: I started flying in 1990, got my private in 1991, and after graduating from college in 1993, quickly pursued my ratings up to CFI so that I could teach. I was teaching by the summer of 1994, and added CFII and MEI as I went. I was hired at Comair in 1996, and stayed there for sixteen years, until the doors closed in 2012. Staying at Comair was not necessarily my plan, but it was in the back of my mind when I got hired. For a long time, it was a great company to work for before the race to the bottom at the regionals finally caught up to us.

I was lucky. I got hired at the beginning of the huge regional boom (and paid $13,000 in pay-for-training expenses for the privilege), but the trade-off was great seniority that had me in the left seat of an RJ in 2000ówhich was more than a year after I had the seniority to hold it. I spent 12 years as a captain, making a good living; the last several I spent as a Line Check Airman (thatís a training and evaluation pilot in the actual plane, vs. in the sim). I averaged more than $100K my last several years.

I also did a few other things on the side to supplement my income, and also to boost my resume.

When the company closed, I took a few months to spend some time with my family. In January, I went to work for another regional for a short period. I was called for an interview by the major of my choice in the spring of 2013, and I have been here since.

My experience has taught me that there are 3 fundamental rules about being a pilot for a living: it is all about timing; it is all about luck; and it is all about who you know.

Letís talk about your questions, in no particular order.

No, you are not too old, but realize that from zero time to finding a job just as an instructor is a 9-12 month process. Going from zero time to an airline with the new rules is at least three years away, assuming you go for the CFI, get a job, and fly 700-800 hours a year and do not qualify for the restricted ATP.

In my opinion, GA is the hardest way to make a living flying.

Corporate is next, and the airlines are third. The reason for corporate being second is that getting a good corporate job is hard. Itís damn hard.

General aviation is often the most fun flying, but the pay is usually lacking. A good flight school will pay you for time spent on the ground working with students (and, as such, as a student, you should expect to pay for that time). Flight instructors can be paid anywhere from a few dollars over minimum wage to more than $20, or even $30, an hour, but thatís rare. Staying busy as a CFI takes a lot of oomph on your part, and if you are willing, able and savvy enough to do a lot of your own marketing, you can do pretty well. That said, a lot of pilots hate teaching. Personally, I loved it. Outside of teaching, GA doesnít have the jobs it used toóeven traffic spotters have been replaced in a lot of locations by helicopters or remote cameras. Sky divers, banner towing, crop-dusting and sight-seeing are other avenues of making a living, though each has its own hoops, pitfalls and dangers. You might earn $20-25 thousand a year, maybe more if you can add to the operation something outside of the plane, but you likely will have no benefits, no 401(k), and a definite ceiling on income. If you build a good network, there is no telling where you may go.

Corporate flying is as varied as it gets. You might be a one-man band for the local rich guy, or you might be able to buy, borrow, or steal enough multi-engine time to get on with someone that operates a King Air or a Citation. From there, itís a matter of networking with pilots at other corporations, with their bosses, with mechanicsóyou name it, you need to know them. Networking in aviation is critical. But, moving on, you may be able to work your way into a sizeable flight department and get a decent schedule, which is usually defined as not living your life tied to the ring of a cell phone 24 hours a day.

Corporate flying is a challenge largely because, unless you get on with a major corporation, you never know when you are going to work. You may be called out during a family event, a birthday, or in the middle of the night. Holidays are sketchy at best, unless itís a major corporation where all of the execs stay home for the major holidays. You may be gone for a day or six, and you may be home every night or once a week. You are expected to find a way to fly, no matter the weather, come hell or high water. The further up the corporate chain you go, the more support you will get. In the smaller ops, you being able to go is part of what justifies having a plane in the first place.

If you nail it, corporate can be a great way to make a living. The salary can be more than $100,000, with great health care and a good 401(k).

The downside is that in times of hardship, the first thing to go for a company is often the plane. On the other hand, if you change jobs, you can often negotiate a salary that is equal to or exceeds your previous one. You donít have to automatically take a pay cut to start over, unless you choose to do so for strategic reasons.

Generally speaking, you can expect to earn $75,000 and up for a decent corporate gig (decent being the operative word).

Corporate is by far the hardest segment to crack into. It's relatively easy to get an entry-level corporate job, but even that is not easy. There are roughly 100,000 airline pilots in the U.S. There are less than half as many corporate, and it might only be 10-15,000. Like the airlines, there is a definite stratification of jobs, with the creme de la creme being places like P&G, Wal-Mart, etc.

One of the replies to many posts hits the nail on the head: networking. Networking in aviation is EVERYTHING, and nowhere is that more true than in corporate. Those guys all know each other. The advice of hanging around the FBOs and getting to know everyone is spot on. Likewise, avoid buying a type rating in the hopes it will get you a job. Chances are it won't, because while the type rating is nice, you need time in the plane.

You will definitely have more luck finding an airline job. Here's the rub: corporate departments don't like to hire people with a lot of airline experience, because as an airline pilot, all you do is fly. In the corporate world, you not only fly, but you flight plan, load bags, play the role of a flight attendant--you do everything, and you may be expected to do some office work as well. That's not to say that you can't go from 121 to corporate. You can. It's just not always easy.

I hate to say it, but your big decision point will come when you are in a position to think about having a family. If you are a woman, that is a hard decision to make, and I'm not sure which is worse: being the breadwinner, or being the smaller income and wanting to have both. If you marry another pilot, having a family is risky for everyone involved. If you marry a person with a regular job, it depends on how receptive their company is to Dad leaving to get the kids from day care, or to soccer practice, or to a birthday party, etc.

The flip side is that, as a female, you are at a definite advantage for movement, so long as you can demonstrate that you possess the necessary skills and don't have a lot of checkride failures. Many will say this isn't fair, but it's true, so take advantage of it. I have two daughters, and that's what I'd tell them to do.

Now, about the airlines. Again, timing is everything. The airlines are getting started on an unprecedented boom in hiring that has never been seen in this country. To enjoy this, you need to get yourself in position to get hired by a regional. Right now, you can expect to start at $20-25,000 a year, but I personally believe that that is going to go up. In any event, as an FO at a regional, using todayís numbers, you can expect to top out at $40-45,000, plus a small 401(k). You will work 15-20 days a month, and you will fly anywhere from 1-2 to 6 legs a day. You will generally overnight in small cities, but occasionally in big ones as well.

To answer your eventual question about regional pay and quality of life, thatís a personal decision. With a spouse that is bringing home the bacon, you may well be content to stay in the right seat. More than a few regional FOísónot many, but a fewóhave done it it simply for the insurance and travel benefits. As for QOL, that depends. If you live in domicile, QOL can be pretty good. If you commute, it may not be, and while on reserve, it will pretty much suck, especially if you are on reserve and commuting.

But, with the hiring now on, reserve life will be short. As to your concern that ďeverything [you] hear about the culture and the lifestyle sound awful,Ē donít let the naysayers fool you. It is all what YOU make it. If you want to be miserable, you will be. If you want to enjoy it, you will.

The biggest problem with regionals is that they donít control their own future. They are beholden to their major airline affiliates, and if they need to cut costs (even if they donít need to, but are just told to), the employees are pretty convenient targets.

The comments about targeting regionals with larger RJs is germane and prudent, the truth is, they do not control their own future.
This is where things get dicey. A lot of folks got stuck in the right seat of RJís the last several years, because of the change in retirement from a mandatory 60 to 65 years of age. The majors didnít lose pilots they were supposed to, and so neither did the regionals. Guys and gals with huge student loans were forced to take pay cuts. It was easy to get bitter.

Now that the hiring has begun, so will the movement. FOís will jump to the left seat and begin acquiring their coveted turbine pilot-in-command (TPIC) time. Right now you need at least 1500 of those turbine PIC hours to be competitive. Thatís a minimum of 2 years, and more than likely 3. You simply wonít get hired with no TPIC time. If you can become a check airman, a chief pilot, or some other manager, you need to grab that opportunity. Keep in touch with your friends that go to the majors (thereís that whole networking thing again; notice a trend?).

The regionals can be tough. Some have lousy reputations (Mesa, GoJet) and some are pretty good places to work (Skywest). Itís almost impossible to put it all into words, but suffice it to say that you will come to hate reserve, and you will get very used to living out of your suitcase.

An arc to all of this is where you will live. If your current girlfriend becomes your ďMissus,Ē or if you are already married, the equation gets even more complicated. Chances are you are facing at least one or two moves in your future. At some point, you (or your current or future partner) will decide that you want to stay somewhere, and you will have to decide if it is worth commuting. Thatís an entirely different issue, but it complicates your decision. If you go corporate, you likely have several moves in your future, because unless you are working for a fractional, commuting just isnít an option.

If you hold on long enough to get to the majors, the payoff is terrific. The money is good, the company controls its own destiny, and you are treated well.

The truth is that flying is a great job, especially when the door to the plane is closed. When itís open, you have to be able to filter out the rest of the B.S. and the negativity. The negativity will erode as pilots move on, but for now, itís definitely there. But, flying is a tough way to make it, mostly because it is hard on relationships and families. There arenít many jobs in the field that pay decently and get you home every night. For some people, thatís a deal breaker. My kids have grown up with it, and itís all they know. They get it, but it doesnít make it easy when I canít be home (Iím writing this on a trip on Fatherís Day). Again, Iíve been lucky: Iíve been home for Christmas for 13 years in a row, but Iíve missed plenty as well. Some have missed that 13 Christmasí in a row. Some folks get started, get to their dream job, and realize that they hate it, for a myriad of reasons. Iíve always loved it, even when it wasnít a lot of fun. But, Iím one of the lucky ones. I caught the front end of a huge wave of hiringótwice. Others that were equally or more qualified did not. ButÖI networked, and met people, and it helped.

Flying is fun, itís challenging, and itís a very dynamic field. No two days will ever be the same. Iíve never regretted my career choice, even when I lost my job.

I donít know if Iíve helped you at all, but you are asking some pretty open-ended questions. But to repeat: yes, you can survive in GA if you go about it properly; you will not likely make more than $45,000 as a regional FO; you have plenty of time to do this if you so choose; QOL will depend on many factors, including how you define it; and you have plenty of ďblind spots,Ē but there is no way to address them all adequately here, and in truth, you have can never fully appreciate them until you live them.

Aviation requires two things: absolute, unwavering dedication to your goals; and flexibility. You have to be willing to move; you have to be willing to commute; you have to be willing to work when everyone else is off, and vice versa. You have to want to make it as a pilot more than you want anything (or anyone) else. But it can be done. You are getting in at the right time, so don't lose sight of that.

It has to consume you, and like the rest of us, you need to have a few loose marbles.
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Old 06-19-2014, 07:56 PM   #3  
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Thanks, OnCenterline! Probably one of the best posts on here.
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Old 06-20-2014, 06:32 AM   #4  
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Have $60,000+ available for flight training or be able to get a loan. If I did it over I think ALLATPs would be a great option. I did my ATP w them. If you want to make it to the majors get a degree. Although by the time you have 6000 hours and a competitive resume, maybe by then there really will be a shortage and not require a degree? Know that you'll have to log 1500 hours prior to being looked at by a regional airline. I know my corporate aviation company even requires 1500 hours. So more than likely expect a cargo job or flight instructing. If you have patience. Money. And know what your getting into. You probably are coming in at an excellent time. Boeing and I can't remember who else forecasts growth and new planes. And lots of talk about pilot shortages. It's at the regionals now. Just a matter of time the majors feel it. My crash course. You asked a very loaded question.
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Old 06-20-2014, 10:12 AM   #5  
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Nice post OnCenterline, and welcome to APC, Ravi.

We get the "I wanna be a pilot" question a lot here, and I like to steer newcomers to these two links to required reading-

US Bureau of Labor Statistics- Pilot pages
The Truth About the Profession
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:52 AM   #6  
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Don't look at the graph. Read the comment about $20,000 salary. Will take quite a few years to break $35k, unless your lucky. The nice salary is >10 years away from where you're at right now. I suppose it's possible to get on with someone like Skywest an upgrade quicker than Envoy and start making $72,000+. But don't be blinded by six-digit "stats". You'll be disappointed.
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Old 06-30-2014, 09:23 PM   #7  
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I did it, and am glad so far.

12 years in the cubicle... now 2nd year as a full time pilot, on my 2nd regional airline. I still have a long road ahead to get back to a decent salary.

First off, do this ONLY if its your true passion and you can't see not flying for a living. Anything short of that type of commitment and passion will, I think, lead to disappointment.

Pros:
- The deep satisfaction of achieving your dream. Really, that's it. I'll list a few more, but there it is, right there.
- No more meetings
- No more managers
- No more cubicles
- No more M-F 9-5 (or more hours... you're on a salary, right?), for the rest of eternity. You will still work, and be AWAY from home more hours, but it can be a very nice lifestyle

Cons:
- You will take a gigantic pay cut
- You will be away from family for extended periods of time
- Weekends, holidays, birthdays, etc are history
- Little to no employment security
- Did I mention the pay cut?

My only advice if you decide to go for it: If you decide to do this, you must use your software expertise and salary to pay for your ratings in the most expedient and cost-effective way possible WITHOUT racking up debt. Don't feel the need to rent the best equipped G1000 panelled airplane. Rent the clapped out ugly POS that is the cheapest for miles around (or do what I did, and buy an airplane to build time.. but that is a whole 'nother can of worms entirely!). Don't hand in your 2 weeks notice tomorrow and go down to All ATPs or where-ever and sign a note; your degree and presumed employment is a huge asset, and I would suggest using these as long as you can until you are on your feet with your first full-time flying job that will let you build time rapidly while getting paid (probably not a lot..) for it. The trade-off here, as the guy above noted, is that timing is everything.

Last edited by M20EPilot; 06-30-2014 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 06-30-2014, 09:46 PM   #8  
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Its not a career to get into if you are chasing the money. It is a long, hard road with many sacrifices and little security. It can also be rewarding in many ways.
The best advice I would say is to have some money saved to help you through the lean years. Not easy after paying for all the training.
Even if you get your dream job (which will likely take years if ever to achieve)
the first year pay will be very little.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:05 AM   #9  
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It's nice to see the professional responses on this thread, and especially the very well written one by OnCenterline.

After working in the corporate world for so long, personally I really appreciate the professionalism of the business world. One of my biggest concerns, which is validated by friends I have that work in the regionals and majors, is often the lack of professionalism and some of the negativity. I'd love to fly for a career but I think that would wear me down pretty quickly.
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Old 07-16-2014, 09:05 AM   #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgmann View Post
Don't look at the graph. Read the comment about $20,000 salary. Will take quite a few years to break $35k, unless your lucky. The nice salary is >10 years away from where you're at right now. I suppose it's possible to get on with someone like Skywest an upgrade quicker than Envoy and start making $72,000+. But don't be blinded by six-digit "stats". You'll be disappointed.
Good point, and one I find intriguing. I always doubted the medians were very useful from USBLS webpages. It shows that lumping regional and major airline pay in one big number is not a wise thing, because a median pay figure does not insure that you will (or are likely to) make that much money yourself. The odds are against it.

To make an illustration- a 1,000 guys in group A make $20k while another group of the same size (B) make $200k. The median (what US BLS reports) is $100k. But how many people in either group in this example actually make $100k? None. You are only going to make max $20k working in group A (ie. a regional airline) and not a penny more. All that money made by persons in group B (hypothetical majors) has zero effect on the actual wages you'll actually get if you happen to be in group A, which is not what the USBLS data seems to suggest.

That's a hypothetical example but you get the idea that lumping disparate groups together skews the median and makes the real wages less accurate depending on how far apart the subgroups are. For that matter lumping the pay of captains with first officers within one broad group is misleading. The groups need to be fairly similar for median to be accurate. What we need is a breakdown of the data by the various groups. Looking at those medians would be revealing. The data is there to be had, one could even derive it from the front pages of APC using a few assumptions.

Last edited by Cubdriver; 07-16-2014 at 09:16 AM.
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